Ilana Witten
Stanford University

Spatial Processing in a Complex Auditory Environment

Wednesday 12th of March 2008 at 12:00pm
508-20 Evans Hall

A single, stationary object in the auditory environment activates space-selective neurons in the brain, which in turn direct orienting movements towards the object. However, the natural auditory environment is typically complex, containing auditory objects that move through space, as well as multiple simultaneous objects. Moreover, auditory objects need to be integrated with the corresponding visual objects. This complexity provides challenges that the brain most overcome in order to localize sounds appropriately. For instance, when a sound moves through space, neural activity must predict the sound's future location in order to compensate for sensorimotor delays involved in sound orienting behavior. When there are multiple sounds in the environment, the animal must decide whether or not to group them perceptually, and if they are grouped, the animal must decide where to localize them. Finally, when the animal is faced with conflicting localization information from auditory and visual systems, it must employ learning rules that can appropriately reinstate crossmodal alignment. I will describe how the auditory system mediates localization behavior and represents the auditory environment in the face of each of these complexities.

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